Google fined EUR100,000 over collection of smartphone Wi-Fi data

March 24, 2011 |

In Europe the regulators are taking a much stronger line on the potential or actual breaches of privacy protections by the large operators in cyberspace.¬† Notwithstanding the French regulator, the French National Commission for Information Technologies and Civil Liberties (CNiL) telling Google last May that it had to stop collecting details of users’ Wi-Fi networks and content that passed over them¬† Google has failed to meet those demands.

The camera-carrying cars used to take the pictures that make up Google’s Street View mapping service collected information on the location of Wi-Fi network and some information passing over networks, including usernames, passwords and entire emails.

Though the collection of that information has stopped, the CNiL has said that Google’s collection of information from smartphone users involves the same kind of privacy violations.

“[Google] has not refrained from using the data identifying access points of Wi-Fi individuals without their knowledge,” said a CNiL statement in French, in a machine translation. “This collection now … operates directly through the mobile users connecting to geolocation service Latitutde … without their knowledge.”

“The CNiL considers that this lack of information [to users] is an unfair collection under the law, which was already at work with ‘Google cars’,” it said.

The CNiL said that Google had refused requests from it to report on the issue to it despite two requests to do so.

“As we have said before, we are profoundly sorry for having mistakenly collected payload data from unencrypted WiFi networks,” said Google global privacy counsel Peter Fleischer. “As soon as we realised what had happened, we stopped collecting all WiFi data from our Street View cars and immediately informed the authorities. Deleting the data has always been our priority.”

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